by Dr Anthony Horton, The AIM Network: http://theaimn.com/spotlight-on-health-and-climate-change-long-overdue/
According to Damian Ryan, Head of International Policy at The Climate Group there is no better time to apply a spotlight to health and climate change.
Higher temperatures will either create a range of illnesses, disease or
injuries or exacerbate them, at a time when ageing populations and
lifestyle diseases such as diabetes and heart disease will place
increasing strain on health systems around the world.
Heat waves are likely to have health impacts for significant numbers
of people around the world, as evidenced by events in Western Europe in
2003 and Russia in 2009 when 80,000 and 50,000 premature deaths
respectively were reported. Vulnerable poor and elderly people made up
the majority of these counts.
Vector-borne diseases normally contained within temperature
thresholds that contain their habitats are also likely to spread with
higher temperatures. There is now evidence that malaria which is spread
by the Anopheles mosquito is now present in regions that were previously
regarded as too cool for the mosquito’s survival, such as the Ethiopian
Cases of the West Nile virus, a potentially fatal mosquito-borne
disease are likely to spread to the United States as a result of climate
change. Lyme disease which is transmitted by ticks is also expected to
spread with increasing temperatures, and the USEPA added it to its list
of climate change indicators last year.
Water supplies and sewage
systems are also vulnerable to climate change due to more destructive
and frequent floods and hurricanes, and damage to either or both could
increase the likelihood of water and food borne diseases, particularly
in poorer communities that have lower resilience and adaptive capacity.
Water supplies in Bangladesh are already being impacted due to rising
sea levels as a result of climate change. Professor Paolo Venesis from
Imperial College in London has noted that the intrusion of salty water
into the drinking water supply can lead to increases in the number of
hypertension cases and other associated negative health impacts. In
Bangladesh, hundreds of thousands of people are exposed to this risk.
It is important at this point to recognise that the climate is
already interacting with a range of pollutants with dramatic results. In
northern China, a joint United States-Chinese study found that air
pollution from coal burning has reduced the average life expectancy by
Anyone would say that this is clearly unacceptable, however
we need to realise that rich and poor countries are still struggling to
manage nitrous oxides (from a range of sources), ozone (formed in a
reaction under specific circumstances) and particles from coal burning.
The US Clean Air Act has reduced air pollution significantly, however a
Harvard Study estimated that the annual cost of coal use in the US was
$345-$500 billion in negative health effects. This range was far beyond
the economic cost of coal as an energy source.
In a number of poorer countries, the use of inefficient poorly
ventilated kerosene and biomass stoves for cooking is a significant
contributor to the 7 million deaths worldwide that is attributed to air
pollution by the World Health Organisation, with heart and lung disease
being the most significant killers.
The evidence of the major health and environmental benefits of
tackling climate change continues to mount, and as it does, this very
clearly shows that both Governments and the private sector can achieve
significant wins from the perspectives of their financial bottom lines
and of the health of their employees and constituents.
In many previous
blogs I have discussed some of these aspects and the results are really
speaking for themselves in terms of growing market share and exploiting
opportunities in new markets.
If you are at all concerned about climate change I would urge you to
start a conversation (or maintain one) with your State and Federal
Members of Parliament, as they are a vital piece of the climate change
mitigation puzzle. They need to be aware of and appreciate that each one
of us is aware of and appreciates the win-wins of climate change, and
that we must act now.
Anthony Horton blogs on his own site; http://www.theclimatechangeguy.com.au